In junior high formation yesterday, we talked about Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan. We've all heard sermons asking us to contemplate, "Who is your neighbor?" with the inevitable answer being one of the following: (1) someone you can't stand, (2) someone you never think about or notice, or (3) everyone in the whole world. All perfectly good answers. I was in a soul-searching mood, however, and I came up with a very specific list. (Of course the world is neighbor to itself, we should strive for universal goodwill, etc. I'm talking about specific people who I have not been neighborly towards.)
These are people I don't understand, don't like, or don't appreciate, in that order. So how do I act like they are my neighbors? Pick up the darn phone and call them. Be in relationship, physically and emotionally. Listen. Do not ignore them. Do not judge them. That last one's a big one. It is so easy to sit in my mentally-stable, middle-class, extrovert chair and say, "get over it." It just doesn't work that way. And there is no room for compassion in that chair, that's for sure.
What stops me from acting like they're my neighbors? Clearly disdain and annoyance for some, my own self-interest for others. Most telling of my marker-scribbled notes is the last line, written semi-unconsciously: "fear of intimacy."
I talk a lot about how relationship is key to the Kingdom. Intimacy (not sex, mind you) is necessary for any real decision or connection or understanding or progress, no matter how you want to define them. And that intimacy is what I fear. If I connect with one of these folks, make myself vulnerable, what demands will he make on me? What uncomfortable but necessary situation will I find myself in? I just read a book excerpt about this guy's attempts at relationship with a homeless and mentally unwell man. It brought tears to my eyes. I long to be in such a relationship--not because I want to condescend and "work amongst" the poor but because intimacy is what we all need. Yet it scares me to think what could be asked of me.
The thing is, the realization of this fear came at the same time as the desire and strength to overcome it. This isn't poor me time but a fresh challenge.